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Drug Addiction and Alcoholism in America
Americans are drinking more when they drink, but only 20 percent of those with an alcohol use disorder seek treatment. For those who’ve had such a diagnosis in the past year, that figure is just under 8 percent.
A June 2015 study shows that 32 million Americans, nearly one in seven adults, have struggled with a serious alcohol problem in the last year. The study discloses that a growing number of Americans have alcohol use disorder (AUD), a relatively new classification which the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines as “problem drinking that becomes severe.” Although manifesting in a different form, alcoholism is really a drug addiction as well.
Alcohol consumption is the world’s third-largest risk factor for disease and disability, is a causal factor in 60 types of diseases and injuries, and a component cause in 200 others. Almost 4 percent of all deaths worldwide are attributed to alcohol. Alcohol is also associated with many serious social issues, including violence, child neglect and abuse, and absenteeism in the workplace.
Binge drinking by women is on the rise
In 2013, 6.8 percent reported that they engaged in heavy drinking in the past month; 24.6 percent of Americans ages 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month.
Binge drinking (four drinks for women and five drinks for men within about 2 hours) in the United States is on the rise according to an April 2015 study from the University of Washington published in the American Journal of Public Health. The skyrocketing increase in alcohol consumption by American women is considered to be the driving force behind the nationwide escalation of binge drinking.
On average, heavy drinking among Americans rose 17.2 percent between 2005 and 2012, largely due to rising rates among women. Across the nation, binge drinking among women increased more than seven times the rate among men. In Santa Clara County, California, home of Silicon Valley, women’s binge drinking rates rose a whopping 36 percent between 2002 and 2012, compared with 23 percent among men.
Consequences of drinking
Excessive and high-risk alcohol use may contribute to violence and result in many negative health consequences for the consumer. Even moderate drinking can have negative health effects and lead to alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes and increased injuries. In 2013, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 10,076 U.S. deaths (30.8 percent of overall driving fatalities). Current alcohol use in pregnant women is also linked to low birth weight babies, sudden infant death and other developmental delays in children.
Heavy drinking increases the risk for many health and social related consequences. People who consume alcohol heavily are at increased risk for alcohol abuse and dependence, liver disease, certain cancers, pancreatitis, heart disease, and death. It has also been found that the more heavily a person drinks, the greater the potential for problems at home, work and with friends.
Binge drinking increases the risk for many health and social related consequences. High-risk alcohol use has been linked to injuries, such as falls, fights and suicides, violence, crime rates, motor vehicle crashes, stroke, chronic liver disease, addiction and some types of cancer, such as cancers of the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, liver, and breast.
Youthful drinking habits
In addition to the risks, alcohol consumption carries for adults, developing adolescent brains are especially susceptible to the health risks of alcohol consumption. Adolescents who consume alcohol are more likely to have poor grades and be at risk for experiencing social problems, depression, suicidal thoughts, assault, and violence.
Youth are more likely than adults to binge drink when they consume alcohol. High-risk alcohol use contributes to violence and motor vehicle crashes and can result in negative health consequences for the consumer, including injuries and chronic liver disease. Youth who engage in high-risk drinking also are more likely to use drugs and engage in the risky and antisocial behavior.
America’s teenagers are always looking for a new way to get high. Drug addiction looms large when tempting fate with dangerous activities. One of the latest trends is drinking hand sanitizer for a fast, potent high. A typical eight-ounce container of hand sanitizer gel contains basically the same alcohol content as five shots of hard liquor. Teens typically abuse hand sanitizer in one of two ways: they mix hand sanitizer with Listerine to make a strong minty cocktail or combine the gel with salt to separate and distill the alcohol from hand sanitizer.
Without treatment, youth who drink excessively as teenagers are more likely to become problem drinkers as adults. Depending on the severity of alcohol misuse, the youth’s prognosis can be significantly improved by interventions ranging from involving the teen’s parents to having the teen participate in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or more intensive treatments.
Drugs of Abuse
A wave of new drugs has become increasingly popular with today’s adolescents and young adults. These drugs are commonly known as club drugs, a term originating from the rave phenomenon. Many club drugs are also called designer drugs, referring to the fact that many of the drugs are manmade (for example, Ecstasy or ketamine) rather than found in or derived from nature (for example, marijuana or opium derivatives).
Methamphetamine, also known as crystal, meth, crystal meth, ice, tina, and crank, is an amphetamine derivative with similar stimulant properties. Methamphetamine highs can last up to 20 hours; heavy users may stay awake for several days. Drug addiction from meth can occur very quickly. Additional health risks include heart attacks, strokes, weight loss, malnutrition, fluid buildup in the lungs, and death. Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug. For more information about methamphetamine, please see the “Meth” entry under Types of Addiction/Drugs.
Ecstasy is the street name for the hallucinogenic methamphetamine derivative methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). First used in psychiatric patients, it became a popular recreational drug because of its hallucinogenic effects. Other street names for ecstasy include X, E, XTC, Adam, M&M, bean, roll, clarity, and essence. It gained popularity in the 1980s and can now be purchased on the street alongside other street drugs like cocaine and heroin. For more information about Ecstasy, please see the “Ecstasy” entry under Types of Addiction/Drugs.
Ephedrine: Ephedrine is a stimulant similar to amphetamine and is found naturally in the Chinese herbal medicine “ma-huang” and in “Mormon’s tea.” College students and truck drivers use it for its stimulant effect. Incorrectly viewed as a safe alternative to amphetamines, this “herbal ecstasy” has been associated with strokes and deaths in adolescents.
Ritalin: Ritalin (generic name, methylphenidate) is a central nervous system stimulant known on the street as vitamin R, R-ball, and skippy. This drug is used to manage attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Stimulants are the primary drugs used in the treatment of this disorder and are effective 90% of the time. In the 1990s, the prevalence of methylphenidate use increased by 250% compared to the 1980s, but its use has somewhat declined in the past 10 years. For more information about Ritalin, please see the “Ritalin” entry under Types of Addiction/Prescription Drugs.
Phencyclidine (PCP): PCP is also known as angel dust, Love Boat, lovely, an elephant tranquilizer, crystal, crystal joints (CJs), TAC, hog, and the sheets. Drug addiction from PCP alone is unusual, though it does happen occasionally. In large doses, symptoms can last from 24-48 hours. The dissociation can resemble schizophrenia. An overdose can produce high blood pressure, hostility, and alterations of body images. These unintentional actions have resulted in people jumping from heights. Neurologic signs, such as uncontrolled eye movements, inability to maintain balance, and difficulty speaking, may also occur. Users may lose consciousness (pass out) with large doses. For more information about PCP, please see the “PCP” entry under Types of Addiction/ Drugs.
Ketamine: Ketamine, also known as special K, K, Vitamin K, and fort dodge, is a derivative of PCP (a powerful psychedelic drug) that has become increasingly popular. Although the long-term effects of ketamine abuse have not been well studied, it is suggested that out-of-body experiences may recur even without the additional use of the drug. Psychosis (severe mental instability) from chronic use may occur, as well as drug addiction to Ketamine itself.
Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, or GHB, is a hypnotic depressant known on the street by several names: easy lay, Georgia home boy, liquid X, liquid ecstasy, liquid E, grievous body harm, Gib, G-riffic, natural sleep-500, gamma-oh, cherry meth, scoop, soap, salty water, organic Quaalude, fantasy, sodium oxybate, somatomax and gamma hydrate. GHB is perhaps most commonly known as the date-rape drug. Effects of the drug begin 15-60 minutes after use and typically last up to six hours. Respiratory depression can be severe enough to require life support on a ventilator or breathing machine until the drug effects wear off.
Rohypnol (generic name, flunitrazepam), a potent benzodiazepine (a class of tranquilizing agents), is known as Mexican Valium, circles, roofies, la rocha, roche, R2, rope and forget-me pill. Adverse effects include low blood pressure, dizziness, confusion, visual disturbances, inability to urinate fully and in some users, aggressive behavior. Dependence on flunitrazepam can occur. Withdrawal produces symptoms such as headache, tension, extreme anxiety, restlessness, muscle pain, light sensitivity, numbness and tingling of arms and legs, and even seizures.
Inhalant abuse is also increasingly popular in adolescents and young adults. An inhalant is a vapor you breathe in and may be in the form of liquid or gases.
Nitrous oxide: This is an inhalant used in whipped cream chargers and dispensed into balloons. Known as whippets, abusers inhale nitrous air through the balloon. Nitrous oxide has anesthetic effects and may give a high from breathing the low oxygen content in the balloon. Sudden death has been reported from breathing air with low oxygen content. Other dangers include producing air bubbles in the lungs and chest and rupture of the eardrums. Chronic abusers may develop nerve damage.
Hydrocarbons: Inhalants are often ingredients in household products such as paint cans and air fresheners. Hydrocarbons can be abused by huffing, bagging or sniffing. Huffing involves inhaling vapors from a cloth soaked in hydrocarbons. Bagging is inhaling a hydrocarbon that was sprayed into a bag. Finally, sniffing is the direct inhalation of the hydrocarbon from its source. Hydrocarbons commonly produce euphoria, drunkenness, sedation and low brain oxygen levels. They can cause brain damage and sudden death.
Other Club Drugs
Chloral hydrate: A sedative, the combination of chloral hydrate and alcohol, known as a Mickey Finn, produces rapid loss of consciousness. This action of placing chloral hydrate into an alcoholic beverage of someone else without their knowledge is referred to as “slipping a Mickey.” In addition to sedative brain effects, chloral hydrate also lowers a person’s ability to breathe, irritates the gastrointestinal tract and interrupts the normal beating of the heart. Mild use is similar to alcohol intoxication (drowsiness and unsteadiness). With increased use, chloral hydrate can cause death, usually from heart disturbances.
Dextromethorphan: An over-the-counter cough suppressant, dextromethorphan has gained popularity as a drug of abuse because of its structural similarity to PCP and morphine derivatives. Although not typically a primary source of drug addiction, the abuse of the drug can be a precursor to later addictive behavior. It is also known as DM, Robo and Robo shots. Dextromethorphan is a depressant that can produce a high with hallucinations similar to those of PCP at larger doses. Almost two four-ounce bottles of over-the-counter cough suppressant must be ingested to reach these doses.